Rants, Raves, Reads and Writers

“Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, a touch that never hurts.” Charles Dickens

I like the above quote and although I’m nowhere near saintly enough to stick to it, it’s worth aspiring to. And I do try to remember that everyone faces a bit of a struggle –  to a greater or lesser extent  – and nobody has a perfect life, no matter what kind of face they present to the world. So I try to not to waste energy feeling resentment, envy, disappointment or annoyance with my fellow travellers through daily life.

But it’s the faceless ones – commercial organisations and bureaucracies – that I find it very hard not to get worked up about and, when faced with inefficiency and indifference on their part, I’m afraid the ranting red mist descends.

Yes there’s a rant coming on. Normally Rant & Rave Tuesday is the second Tuesday of the month but I’m afraid I didn’t post last week as I was busy being a domestic goddess and taking up curtains and hanging pictures.

So this week’s blog is a combination of R&R and my normal third Tuesday content of book review and blog of the month.

The Rant – We moved house recently so we’ve been buying bits and bobs for the new place.

First problem was companies who can’t/ won’t deliver to the Scottish islands. One UK company told me that they don’t do international deliveries! That rendered me speechless – especially as our island is joined to the mainland by a toll free road bridge.

Then, two furniture items in succession arrived without the correct components for assembly. One – a home cinema system arrived with no screws. Neither manufacturer nor supplier was willing to send the missing items. My husband had to trawl the internet and managed to source a set of the necessary fixings from the USA. The other item – a stand for the TV – came with bolts that were too short to attach the TV to the stand. Again it was down to us as the customers to sort this out and find the right bolts from elsewhere.

Next – was the saga of trying to get our electricity supplier to set me up to pay online – what a palaver – days of emailing Gary in customer in customer services. He feels like one of the family now and I’m sure the poor guy has developed a twitch and the need for tranquilising medication.

It’s a sair fecht at times.

But on The Rave side – Plusnet – our broadband provider have proved efficient, communicative and reliable – and our satellite TV installer, Mario was also brilliant. And the local plumber also turned up trumps when our boiler sprung a leak. Hurrah for them.

And breathe…

Book Review – just a mini one this time – I’ve just finished ‘Sister’ by Rosamund Lupton (published by Piatkus and available on Amazon as paperback and ebook).

A friend lent it to me suspecting it was my sort of read. And she was right. This is a great suspenseful thriller. Beatrice goes in search of her missing sister. As she searches she finds out that there was a lot she didn’t know about her sister and Beatrice ends up in terrible danger. It’s scary, moving and will have you reading way past lights out time. My only reservation – not entirely satisfied by the ending – but I still felt it was worth it for the journey.


Next month I will review Sara Sheridan’s soon to be published new novel ‘Brighton Belle’ (to bepublished by Polygon in hardback in April and paperback in July) – sneak preview – it’s a good one.

Blog of the Month – Anne Mackle’s  ‘Is Anyone There?’ over at http://cassam-isanyonethere.blogspot.com I ‘met’ Anne on twitter (@cassam101). She’s a wife, mother, grandmother and Scot like me – yes we have a lot in common. I love her observations of life and her relaxed writing style. See her very moving post for Mothers’ Day – or go and read about her lottery win…

And finally – congratulations to another twitter writing buddy Mr Fletcher Moss (@FletcherMoss ). His children’s novel ‘Sleepwell and Fly’ (aka ‘The Poison Boys’) has just been announced as the winner of the 2012 Times/Chicken House Children’s Writing Competition. It will be published next year. He blogs beautifully at http://sleepwellandfly.blogspot.com  Nice one Mr M.

Tioraidh until next week.


January Rant & Rave

Eager, avid and wide-awake readers – or maybe that should just be the sad – will be saying ‘Hang on, weren’t you going to be a-ranting and a-raving on the first Tuesday of the month and then blogging about island life on the second Tuesday?’ And you’d be right.

However, having used up the first instance of a Tuesday by setting out my new year blog plans, I missed the opportunity to R& R. So, in the true spirit of the January sale, I’m doing a two-for-the-price-of-one special. Right, I hope that’s that all cleared up.

There’s a bit of a ‘Handy’ theme to the R&R this time…

First rant of 2012 –  bottle tops. I have just struggled for many minutes to get the top off a bottle of bleach. Now I know it has to be childproof but so do pill bottles and I can remove the tops from them no bother. Just push down and turn. But this ridiculous bottle requires you to squeeze in the sides of the top and turn it at the same time. My hands are small but perfectly formed and, yes, there’s a bit of arthritis in the old fingers, so this combined movement proved impossible and was very painful. The design of this top is very poor.

And what about  cooking oil bottle tops? Not a problem if the bottle is glass because then you just unscrew but the plastic variety – argh! With their ridiculous little, thin plastic strips that cut into your fingers as you tear and pull an unfeasibly small tag to release top from bottle, they are bad-word inducing.

Cue the ranters battle cry. Why oh why?  And breathe…

Fortunately Mr Write Enough has big, strong hands and  he opened the bleach bottle for me. But what if he hadn’t been available? The outcome could have been unthinkable – an unbleached sink – or – even – asking a strong child to do it.

Rave – The Body Shop’s Shea Body Butter moisturiser. This was a Christmas present from my son and his lovely girlfriend. I’ve been using it on my hands which are in a bit of a bad way with eczema – very dry and cracked. My prescription ointment helps a bit but this Body Shop stuff is the biz. What a difference it’s making. The cracked, red, itchy skin is much better since I’ve been using this stuff. And it smells gorgeous. I give it a round of applause with my newly soft hands.

Island Life – Weather is a major feature of life here on the island. We have a maritime climate with, often contrasting, local variations in the minute-to-minute weather. Wind is the predominant feature and over the winter, when it’s incredibly noisy and intrusive, even when you’re indoors, it could drive a person to insanity. It will drown out the television, cut off mobile phone and radio signals, push the car onto the wrong side of the road, smash sturdy wooden garden furniture and mangle greenhouses and polytunnels. But you do learn to live with it. You learn to tie down caravans, compost bins, rabbit hutches and dog kennels. You put away all garden furniture and ornaments in September until May. It can even be exhilirating to be out in the Atlantic squall – as long as you have the appropriate clothing and, ideally, a hand to hold –  a wind-blown walk will whip your troubles away.

Being so far north, light is very precious at this time of year. The island is beautiful and, in winter, the snow on the mountains, the ‘white-horses on the waves and stark, silhouetted views can be magnificent. If you can see them. But this winter everything has been veiled.  It’s the greyness, I find hard to bear. The constant low level of light and the often accompanying drizzle, showers or monsoon are so depressing. The grey sky, grey rain, grey light – they take you beyond feeling blue. The mountains disappear, the sea disappears, the beauty of the island is drained away. A sort of claustrophobic island fever takes you over. The mainland with its big cities, its street lights, its cinemas, theatres and shops beckons beguilingly. You need a fix. You may well succumb and drive the two hundred miles to Inverness.

However all it takes is one day – one day of blue sky and full spectrum light – and you know – you know it’s not forever. Spring isn’t far away and even at its darkest worst, this island is home.